Learning the basics
In this guide we will go over how to change your classical guitar strings. Classical guitars are also called Spanish guitars, and are designed slightly different from their steel string acoustic brothers. For those that are new to playing the classical guitar, we will first go through some quick terminology so that you will know what you will be looking for. Starting from the top of the guitar and working our way down there is the:
- 1. The Headstock. This is where the rollers and tuning pegs are located. Unlike steel string guitars, classical guitars strings must be tied on to the rollers, we will explain more about this later on in the guide.
- 2. The Nut. The Nut is just below the Headstock and has small grooves to hold the strings into place. The materiel for the nut may be different for each guitar but its purpose is the same for all types of guitars rather it is for a classical or electric guitar.
- 3. The Neck and fretboard. The Frets are the metal wires you see going down the Neck of the instrument.
- 4. The Bridge and saddle. The bridge is the wooden part at the bottom, and the saddle is the part that holds the strings into place. Think of the saddle as the Nut, but at the bottom of the guitar. Just like the rollers at the top of the guitar, the classical strings must be tied on to the guitar through the bridge.
Changing your classical strings
- 1. The first thing we want to do for all guitars is loosen the strings using the tuning pegs. You want the strings to be nice and slack so that they wobble when you pluck the strings. If you don’t release the tension first before removing the string, it could snap a loose and poke you in the eye, so be careful and loosen the string first. After the strings are nice and loose you can move on to the next step of removing each string.
- 2. You can either unravel the string from the tuning post or cut them off with wire cutters. I recommend taking the time to unravel the old strings instead of cutting them off so that you always have an extra set of strings around, even if they are old. You will have to work the knot out from both ends of the guitar if you choose to unravel the string, but It shouldn’t be too difficult to get off. Continue to repeat this process for all six strings to remove them from the guitar.
- Important note: Next we will put on our new strings, but I should make a quick note that this isn’t like changing strings on an electric or a steel string acoustic guitar. I must stress that all three types of guitars are different. You cannot use steel strings on a classical guitar. Classical guitars use special nylon strings, if you were to put acoustic steel strings on to your classical guitar you could end up damaging the guitar by adding too much tension to it. So make sure you have the right type of strings.
- 3. Let us start with changing the top thick “E” string. We will first start by identifying the two ends of the string: there is normally a plain straight end of the string, and a loose flexible end of the string. We will need about three inches worth of string to tie it in a half hitch style knot. Here is how you do it: Take the plain straight end of the string and tie it on to the bridge at the bottom of the guitar by threading the string through the hole from left to right, that is insert the string through the hole closest to the saddle and then pull it out through the back end of the bridge.
You will then loop the string up and over the top of the bridge towards the long end of the string. Loop the short end of the string you are holding under the long end of the string, and then pull the short end through the loop you made near the bridge so that it looks a bit like a noose. Proceed to twist the string under and over the loop a few times, and then tuck the excess string back under the loop so that the string is held in place and pull the string tight to form a secure knot. If this is your first time it may take you a few tries. The good news is that Nylon strings are a bit easier to work with, so if you bend the string too much it shouldn’t break while it is still loose. Once you have the knot set in place move on to the next step.
- 4. Now we must secure the string to the rollers on the headstock, this is a bit easier to do. You will need maybe about four to five inches worth of string to work with. Place the string through the hole in the “E” string roller, and loop it back up and around through the open space. You will then slide the string through the roller hole again for a second time, and then pull the string tight so that it stays in place. You can now wind the string up tight to pitch. You will need to wind both the 6E string and the 1E string to the outside of the guitar, while all the other strings should be wound towards the center of the guitar, this is done to avoid tuning problems . Repeat this process of putting the strings on for all six strings.
- 5. After the strings are on, use a pair of wire cutters to snip off the extra string hanging loose from the rollers for a clean finish. Once all the strings are properly tuned, you can star playing your instrument.
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